International Atomic Energy Agency still says “entombment” is not an acceptable decommissioning strategy

November 2, 2020

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Canada’s “captured” nuclear regulator, had hoped that the latest updated guidance from IAEA would allow entombment of old reactors as a decommissioning strategy.

Here is CNSC in 2017, “dispositioning” critical comments on the proposed entombment of old (and still highly radioactive) nuclear reactors at Rolphton, Ontario and Pinawa, Manitoba:

“Yes, the document referenced, IAEA GSR 6, indicates that
entombment is not recognized internationally, in principle,
as a preferred decommissioning strategy (entombment may
be considered a solution only under exceptional
circumstances, such as following a severe accident). The
IAEA is currently working on a document to provide
guidance with respect to their position on entombment
in situ decommissioning the applicability of entombment in
the context of decommissioning and in particular, the
regulatory requirements and expectations for applying
entombment as a decommissioning option strategy. There is
no scheduled date for the publication of this document;
however, CNSC staff will keep apprised of its development
to inform this EA and licensing review process.
Irrespective of the IAEA guidance document, under the
CNSC’s regulatory framework, applicants are responsible
for selecting and justifying their proposed decommissioning
strategy.”

That quotation is from this document: https://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/documents/p80124/118863E.pdf
Page 9, top right.

The CNSC must have been disappointed when the new IAEA guidance document was published in 2018 and it STILL says that entombment is not acceptable as a decommissioning strategy.

The new IAEA document is

Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants, Research Reactors and Other Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities ~ Specific Safety Guide No. SSG-47, Vienna, 2018

The relevant text is section 5.17 on page 32 and it reads as follows:

Entombment, in which all or part of the facility is encased in a structurally long lived material, should not be considered an acceptable strategy for planned decommissioning. It might be considered as a last option for managing facilities that have been damaged in an accident, if other options are not possible owing to high exposures of workers or technical difficulties.

Undeterred, the CNSC is attempting to make entombment acceptable in its own “RegDocs”, pseudo regulations that rely heavily on nuclear industry created CSA standards, but that is another story, that is covered elsewhere. See Ole Hendrickson’s recent Op Ed in the Hill Times and the recent letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that requests urgent action to address nuclear safety gaps in Canada.

Critical comments from former AECL officials and scientists on CNL Disposal projects

Fifteen former AECL officials and scientists have submitted critical comments on the CNL nuclear waste disposal projects. These people point out many serious flaws in the proposals and the environmental impact statements.

These comments were all submitted to CNSC/CEAA. Links are to the CEAA pages for the environmental assessments for the disposal projects
Most of these former AECL employees identify themselves as “residents of Deep River” or “residents of Pinawa” and do not refer to their employment at AECL in their submissions (but see Michael Stephens’ second NSDF submission).   All are retired, but their former job titles or responsibilities – found through internet searching – are shown in parentheses, below.

Comments from AECL officials and scientists on the Near Surface Disposal Facility Project:

Michael Stephens (Manager, Business Operations, Liability Management Unit; Manager, Strategic Planning, Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program, AECL)

Michael Stephens (2nd submission)

William Turner (Quality Assurance Specialist and Environmental Assessment Coordinator/Strategic Planner, AECL)

William Turner (2nd submission)

William Turner (3rd submission)

William Turner (4th submission)

William Turner (5th submission)

John Hilborn (Nuclear physicist, AECL)

J.R. Walker (Director, Safety Engineering & Licensing; Champion, NLLP Protocol, AECL)

J.R. Walker (2nd submission)

J.R. Walker (3rd submission)

Peter Baumgartner, Dennis Bilinsky, Edward T. Kozak, Tjalle T. Vandergraaf, Grant Koroll, Jude McMurry, Alfred G. Wikjord (all retired AECL Whiteshell Laboratories employees)

Pravin Shah (Manager, Site Landlord Services, AECL)

Greg Csullog (Manager, Waste Identification Program, AECL)

Greg Csullog (2nd submission)

David J. Winfield (30 years’ experience, research reactors and nuclear facilities, AECL)

Comments from AECL officials and scientists on the Nuclear Power Demonstration Closure Project:

William Turner  (Quality Assurance Specialist and Environmental Assessment Coordinator/Strategic Planner, AECL)

William Turner (2nd submission)

William Turner (3rd submission)

Michael Stephens (Manager, Business Operations, Liability Management Unit; Manager, Strategic Planning, Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program, AECL)

J.R. Walker (Director, Safety Engineering & Licensing; Champion, NLLP Protocol, AECL)

Comments from AECL officials and scientists on the In Situ Decommissioning of the Whiteshell  Reactor #1 Project

William Turner  (Quality Assurance Specialist and Environmental Assessment Coordinator/Strategic Planner, AECL)

William Turner (2nd submission)

William Turner (3rd submission)

Michael Stephens (Manager, Business Operations, Liability Management Unit; Manager, Strategic Planning, Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program, AECL)

Michael Stephens (2nd submission)

Peter Baumgartner (AECL Whiteshell Laboratories employee)

Peter Baumgartner (2nd submission)

Peter Baumgartner, Dennis Bilinsky, Edward T. Kozak, Tjalle T. Vandergraaf, Grant Koroll, Jude McMurry, Alfred G. Wikjord (all retired AECL Whiteshell Laboratories employees)

Peter Baumgartner, Dennis Bilinsky, Edward T. Kozak, Tjalle T. Vandergraaf, Grant Koroll, Jude McMurry, Alfred G. Wikjord  (2ndsubmission)

Leonard Simpson (Director of Reactor Safety Research, AECL)

J.R. Walker (Director, Safety Engineering & Licensing; Champion, NLLP Protocol, AECL)